Sean Adams named Chair, Undergraduate and Graduate Graphic Design

March 14, 2019

Sean Adams Appointed Chair of Graphic Design

Aims to diversify next generation visual communication designers to better reflect the audience the industry serves

ArtCenter College of Design Provost Karen Hofmann announced today that, after an extensive international search, the College has named Sean Adams, recognized as one of the most influential graphic designers in the United States, to the position of chair of the Graphic Design department. Adams, who has been teaching at ArtCenter for 15 years and helped launch the wildly successful Graduate Graphic Design program, most recently served as interim chair of the department. He officially took over the permanent role on March 11, 2019.

“Sean’s dynamic leadership of the ground-breaking graduate graphic design program was instrumental in the rapid-fire success of this new enterprise in less than three years, way ahead of the five-year enrollment goal,” said Hofmann. “His deep commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and the need to raise funds for scholarships are just a few of the many reasons he is the ideal candidate for the position.”

“I am excited to serve ArtCenter and thrilled to lead our community of imaginative risk-takers as they push boundaries and design the future,” said Adams.

During his candidacy for this position responsible for both the undergraduate and graduate Graphic Design programs, Adams emphasized the need for the department to prioritize thinking and exploration of new conceptual and formal practices in light of how emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence and the business of outsourcing, impact traditional graphic design practices. He stressed the need to balance the craft of graphic design with an emphasis on problem solving, disruption, risk taking and empathy to prepare students to have viable and long-standing careers in multiple media. He also articulated his drive to diversify the graphic design student and faculty population, culture and curriculum to better reflect the audiences the industry serves.

During the last several years, Adams has served on the editorial board of Design Observer, a website devoted to a range of design topics; he has continued to author celebrated books and publications and has developed numerous courses for (now, LinkedIn Learning). He is the only two-term national president in the history of the AIGA, the professional association for design, that serves 70 chapters and more than 25,000 members worldwide.

Prior to teaching at ArtCenter, Adams was co-founder of the internationally recognized firm, AdamsMorioka from 1994 until 2014. Currently, he works with a range of clients through his practice, The Office of Sean Adams. His clients have included The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, The Walt Disney Company, The Getty, Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, Nickelodeon and Sundance.

In 2014, Adams was awarded the AIGA Medal, the highest honor in the profession. As an AIGA Fellow and Aspen Design Fellow, he has been recognized and published in numerous industry mediums including How, Print, Step, Communication Arts and Graphis. His work has been exhibited often, including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. ID Magazine cited him as one of the 40 most important people shaping design internationally and GDUSA names him one of the top ten influential designers working in the United States.

An alumnus of California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), Adams is a proud board member of FullCircle, a group of individuals committed to supporting ArtCenter students on their educational journey and in developing successful career paths.

Adam’s appointment follows a comprehensive search to identify and attract a diverse and highly qualified group of potential candidates from around the world. Hofmann expressed gratitude to the committee of students, faculty and staff who conducted the search. The committee’s extensive process included multiple rounds of interviews, presentations, reference checks and gathering input from the ArtCenter community.

Teri Bond 
Media Relations Director 
ArtCenter College of Design 
O 626 396-2385 
M 310 738-2077

Photo credit: Blake Little


Speaking Engagements, Juries, Books, and Publications

LinkedIn Learning: Concepts and Ideas
LinkedIn Learning: Resumes
September 2019
AIGA Design Conference 2019
Command X

April 4–6, 2019 • Pasadena, California
The Dieline Awards 2019
The Dieline Awards 2018
Business Etiquette Lecture
November 14, 2017: 5:00 p.m.
Live Online Conversation: Sean Adams
October 26, 2017, 6:00 p.m. PST

AIGA Design Conference 2017
Command X

October 12-14, 2017 • Minneapolis, Minnesota
The Dieline Awards 2017
3x3: Plagiarism or Influence
June 14, 2017 • Pasadena, California
Live Online Conversation: Sean Adams
January 5, 2017, 6:00 p.m. PST
Y Conference Host
March 31–April 1, 2017 • San Diego, California

AIGA Phoenix Design Week
October 22, 2016 • Phoenix, Arizona
AIGA Design Conference 2016
Command X

October 17–19, 2016 • Las Vegas, Nevada
AIGA Recharge
June 8–10 • Raleigh, North Carolina
How Design Live
May 19–23, 2016 • Atlanta, Georgia
UCDA Summit
March 31–April 2, 2016 • Santa Fe, New Mexico
AIGA Unite Conference
February 25, 2016 • San Diego, California

LinkedIn Learning/

Layout and Composition: Advanced Principles
The next step after the Foundations course. Design super-cool work.

Running a Design Business: Selling to Clients:
How to get the good clients, keep them, and do great work.

Graphic Design History: The Bauhaus
This new course is now available. My preferred title, Nazis, Artists, Designers, and War was not used.

The Value of Professional Graphic Design:
Don't hire the kid next door to do your branding.

AIGA Conference, Command X

If you’re a regular at the annual AIGA Design Conference, I’m going to assume that Command X is already a firm favorite, but for the uninitiated, allow me to offer a little background to what became, for me, one of the lasting highlights of this year’s Vegas event. read more

The Design Kids, Australia

Sean Adams is ‘sending the elevator back down’ – he quit his successful branding agency to run the graduate program at ArtCenter & Command X at AIGA, AND to teach online courses through – and all to help young designers! Sean talks about how most of his designs as a kid looked like Nazi propaganda (it was the only graphic design book in the library!), and his number 1 piece of advice for new students – Get your s*!# together! read more

Y Conference, 2017

I'll be the host at the 2017 Y Conference in San Diego. March 31–April 1, 2017. FYI, I'm not Roman Mars or Michael Bierut, so be kind.

The Designer's Dictionary of Color

This new book features design, art, film, and product design to illustrate the usage, cultural issues, and palette options of over 70 colors.

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The Color Design Workbook

Since its initial release in 2008, this book has been a best-seller in the graphic design category. In 2017, a revised and updated edition will be released. The new version includes new work from some of the original and new designers as examples.

Dieline Awards 2017

Jury: Debbie Millman, Sean Adams, Pum Lefebure, Tosh Hall, Sebastian Padilla, Yo Santosa, Leland Maschmeyer, Ken Lo, David Hartman, Ximena O'Reilly, Brian Collins, Dallas Franklin, Alex Center


Blake Little, Work

This is the fifth book I've designed on Blake Little's photography. It will be released in 2017. 

50 Books 50 Covers

Connective Tissue, the book documenting the creative process to rebrand the Arthritis Foundation was selected as one of the 50 Books of 2015. 50 Books/50 Covers is a competition and exhibition founded by AIGA in 1923.

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The Value of Professional Graphic Design

The new course is currently online here


How Design Conference, Atlanta

Last week I spoke at the How Design Conference in Atlanta. I talked about Scary Forks, or those forks in the road when you don't know if you should proceed, go left, or turn back. I wore pink rather than black.

ArtCenter MGx Multi-Tool Now Available

The ArtCenter Graduate Graphic Design program first cohort meets this September. Last month, we released the MGx Multi-Tool. This is ordered online at the MGx site. Rather than making a traditional viewbook, I wanted to design something useful. So you'll find rulers, tips on smart language, and advice from the stellar advisory board.

Running a Design Business: Self Promotion

Two weeks ago, I filmed the next course, Running a Design Business: Self Promotion. After being called a media hog and relentless self promotor for twenty years, it was time to share my processes, systems, and ideas. 

How Magazine

Bryn Mooth interviewed me recently discussing change, risk and my collection obsession.

Guest on The Human Calculator,
The History Channel

Saturday, January 16th
on H2 (History 2)

The Hollywood Reporter: Blunt Talk and UBS

Jonathan Ames’ Starz comedy is in many ways an ode to Network. I designed the UBS logo, history, and on-air graphics for the fictional program and network.

ArtCenter Graphic Design Graduate Program

Today the site for the ArtCenter Graphic Design Graduate (MGx) program is live and we are building an amazing space with a national American furniture company. I'm excited to serve as the Director of the program, providing designers with the skills and tools to not just succeed, but be the next generation of leaders.

Dieline Awards 2016

Jury: Debbie Millman, Sean Adams, Mauro Porcini, David Hartman, Gail Anderson, Alex Center, Dora Drimalas, Leland Maschmeyer, Jonathan Ford, Masanori Eto

Command X 2015 at the AIGA National Conference

This year I took over the role of emcee from Michael Bierut. That's not easy and resulted in a week of anxiety attacks before the conference. Fortunately, the host, Roman Mars, contestants, judges, Maria Gudice, and Bonnie Siegler calmed my fears.

Devour and High Snobiety on Before the was Photoshop

To get an in-depth look at how such work was handled before the convenience of Photoshop, Sean Adams mocks up a layout with a variety of traditional design tools., The Arts and Crafts Movement: Deep Dive

The new course is currently online here. on Preservation

Blake Little was photographing a “bear” when he decided to try out a few tongue-in-cheek ideas—so he introduced some honey. I

Read More

Print Regional Design Issue

This year's cover was designed by Sean Adams, who’s been recognized by every major competition and publication and exhibited often including a solo exhibition at The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art

Read More

Soviet Dialogues Exhibition

Pleased to be asked to design a poster for the Soviet Dialogues Exhibition, Dialogues - Poster Art of the Soviet Union, in San Diego.

The Arthritis Foundation

The Arthritis Foundation book has been published. Designed with DesignMatters at ArtCenter, the book is a documentation of the process and results of a 14 week studio devoted to a new message and campaign for the foundation. 

Complaints! An Inalienable Right

This exhibition showcases more than seventy posters by sixty-plus designers, including Sean Adams, Paula Scher, and Milton Glaser. Beginning March 20, the posters will be on view at The Wolfsonian.